NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

July 4, 2014

A safe nuclear waste repository is not possible

To the editor:

No More Fukashimas applauds The Daily News for printing the editorial from Meriden, Conn., entitled “Storing nuclear waste” on June 17. The editorial warns that “the best-laid schemes of the country’s regulators — the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy — seem to have gone awry, [since] even though they have been trying for decades to establish a secure national dumping place for depleted nuclear fuel, it hasn’t happened. Nevada’s Yucca Mountain was supposed to be the site but that plan fell through.”

The result is that nuclear plants including Seabrook are storing their high-level nuclear waste in our backyards indefinitely, even though nuclear plants were not designed to permanently store spent fuel.

The permanent, safe disposal of nuclear fuel is a problem that may never be solved. Putting aside the formidable technical challenges of locating a proper geologic site, governors and legislatures vigorously oppose siting a nuclear waste repository in their states. In Nevada, billions of federal dollars were spent at Yucca Mountain before the government had second thoughts and stopped the project.

The reason for the states’ relentless opposition is that voters, however open to nuclear power they might be, do not want a national nuclear waste repository in their backyards.

But, in any event, a national waste repository would not guarantee “safe” spent fuel storage because it would create horrible new risks for the nation. If a waste repository opened, it would result in thousands of shipments of high-level radioactive spent fuel moving across the United States, raising the specter of 1.) weather or transport related accidents; or 2.) terrorism in the states through which the spent fuel travels. This threat to our nation’s security is not worth the risk.

The only way to begin to effectively address the nuclear waste storage problem is to stop generating new spent fuel by banning the licensing and relicensing of nuclear plants, including Seabrook. A ban would gradually end production of new spent fuel as plant operating licenses lapse. Obviously, the U.S. would still need to address spent fuel that has already accumulated. As the editorial stated, “we are stuck with the consequences” of nuclear waste that has already been created. But we can stop creating more.

Tom MacLachlan

Amesbury

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